Lawrence Hogue's Reviews > Blind Tribute

Blind Tribute by Mari Christie
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it was amazing

I first came across Mari Christie when I was looking for a different sort of Regency Romance. I found it in her La Deesse Noir: The Black Goddess, which focuses on Kali Matai, an Indian courtesan in London. I loved the book, not only for its welcome inclusion of a person of color in an often lilly-white genre, but because the author was willing to defy certain romance conventions. Where romances most often zero in quickly on the hero and heroine, Kali's profession made that difficult, as she moved from protector to protector. And the arc of her story took years, also not typical. In that sense, it reminded me of Sarah Waters' Tipping the Velvet, which also follows a character through years and several lovers before she finds her happily ever after, but isn't usually considered to fall in the historical romance genre.

Now Christie has moved away from romance into historical fiction with her new Civil War novel, Blind Tribute. I was pleased to receive an advance review copy in exchange for an honest review. And I can honestly say I loved this book. It tells the story of Harry Wentworth, scion of a Charleston plantation family who left the South to pursue a career as a journalist, marrying a Yankee and settling in Philadelphia along the way. This obviously puts him in a tenuous position with both sides of his family as the Civil War breaks out, and he only exacerbates the tensions by moving back home to cover the war.

Harry has seen enough armed conflicts to consider himself a pacifist, and this, combined with his need to maintain journalistic objectivity, keeps him from taking sides in the war. So of course both sides view him as a traitor. How far will he go to maintain his political and journalistic ideals? Very far, as his Northern and Southern families turn against him and the threats against him mount, resulting in one of the most horrific scenes of near-martyrdom imaginable.

But that's far from the end - Christie once again defies convention, throwing to the winds all the plot beat sheets, and even the standard narrative arc of rising tension leading to a climax and a quick denouement. The shape of this novel is more like a pyramid, with the most dramatic events happening in the middle.

There's a reason for this: the novel is really the story of Harry's evolution from half-hearted abolitionist to full-throated one. Through most of his life he has taken the privileged option of removing himself from the institution he abhors, even as his education and initial wealth depended on it. Once he moves back to the South, he is forced to confront the issue square on as he comes in direct contact with enslaved people, most notably an old friend with whom he has a tortuous history. Much of the book is about Harry confronting the role he has played in slavery and, in the latter half, attempting to make reparations for it.

Blind Tribute is a terrific novel, and well-timed, as the threats to Harry's journalistic freedom from both the censorship-loving Lincoln administration and southern mobs can't help but remind us of the current media-hating White House occupant and his followers.
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Reading Progress

July 7, 2017 – Started Reading
July 7, 2017 – Shelved
July 7, 2017 –
25.0% "Enjoying so far!"
July 10, 2017 –
50.0%
July 23, 2017 – Finished Reading

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